report

Government Communications in a time of Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Overview

COVID-19 is expected to become an endemic disease in communities: enhancing resilience through government communication could be an effective non-pharmaceutical policy intervention. Enhancing resilience – the ability of a community to withstand and recover from disruption “without losing essential functions” – will require community engagement that establishes two-way communication that reinforces mutual understanding, and that involves communities in the preparation for and response to potential outbreaks.

Regular and proactive communication by authoritative voices in government – including scientific experts and community influencers – can help build trust, minimise uncertainty and counter misinformation.

While there have been several challenges relating to trust in government communication, behavioural insights into COVID-19 communication present opportunities for governments to enhance community resilience. Behavioural science has been central to government COVID-19 communication. Governments have promoted the need for protective behaviours by providing actionable information for self-protection such as hand washing, isolation, social distancing, and face masks in their public awareness campaigns.

In analysing the role of government communication as a resilience-building tool during the pandemic, this report considers some of the main impediments to health-related attitudes and behaviours, and proposes a five-step approach to adopt when applying community resilience principles to governments’ COVID-19 communication strategies.